A winter Fishtrap night

Originally, I wasn’t going to be in Enterprise for tonight’s Fishtrap Fireside readings. The plan was to go to Portland on Thursday so that we could take care of some business stuff, go to a party on Mt. Hood on Saturday, collect more veggies from the garden in Clatskanie, see the doctor, then go back up to Enterprise for a week or so, weather depending.

Yeah, well, that was a Winter Plan. Winter Plans are travel plans you make where you allow for the contingency of weather. While we’ve done this in the past during our Portland life, adjusting visits to family and friends based on weather issues, it’s a whole different thing when the trip is 350 miles one way. We’ve done our share of “to hell with the weather, we’re GOING” drives for whatever reasons. Obviously, we survived such epic endeavors as the drive from Eugene to Enterprise after our wedding, where we ran into freezing rain at Rooster Rock and snow by Cascade Locks. That was a 9 hour drive that turned into a 12 hour drive, with snow and ice all the way from Rooster Rock to Enterprise.

Or the Christmas trip to visit friends in LA via Reno and Death Valley. On the first day we raced a snowstorm dropping out of the northwest. Literally. We were tracking it via radio, sprinting across the Santiam Pass before the snow hit Portland. That storm caught us south of Bend, as we cut across to Lakeview. The first winds and snow hit us on an exposed ridge. We outran it to Silver Lake, and then to Summer Lake. But as I looked across the playa I could see the dark blues and whites of the oncoming storm. At that point, our path turned sharply south and we outran the storm.

It caught us in Reno. We had reservations for the cheaper hotel at Furnace Creek in Death Valley. Despite the young son, we were young and confident. We went for it.

I still remember the bleakness of Goldfield, where we almost lost the road in the blizzard’s blue-gray light, and the only motels were ten miles behind us in Tonopah, with the snow getting worse and possibly not allowing us to get there. I remember the incongruity of the snow-covered Joshua tree as we turned that sharp corner in Goldfield, and kept on going with the hope that sooner or later we’d be far enough south to get out of the snow. At last, we finally outran the storm again, and made it to Furnace Creek. The rest of the trip wasn’t quite so eventful, but those two days across the desert have shaped at least one story I’ve written.

But yeah. I’ve done my share of these drives. These days, it’s worth the effort to outwait the weather.

So tonight was the monthly Fishtrap Fireside reading. There was at least one writer whose work I’m familiar with, a cowboy who writes occasional humorous columns about ranching and farming for the local paper. I like his work, and had been regretful that our original plans would cause me to miss this night’s Fireside. Between the Portland weather and the steady fall of snow here, it was clear early on that we weren’t going anywhere. I pulled on my snow gear about 6:45 and headed off through the snowstorm (four inches right now) to the Fishtrap House three blocks away, appreciating the new light displays in the neighborhood.

This Fishtrap Fireside reading series focuses on local writers, pretty much for locals. The series runs from October through April and in the last two years I’ve been attending regularly, attendance has been growing. Three readers are featured, and then there’s an open mic session with openings for four more to sign up. It’s possible to hear all sorts of writing in this series, from prosaic informational nonfiction to humor to poetry to spiritual to memoir to fiction…it’s a diverse selection with the one common element being that all participants need to have a local tie. After listening to the readers over this time, I’ve got to repeat what someone said to me during the Jingle through Joseph bazaar–“there’s a lot of creative people around here.” Yes, there are–artists and writers and musicians. I haven’t even begun to delve into the depths of the local music scene. But that’s a different subject.

The turnout wasn’t as big as it’s been at other sessions this fall, but pretty good for a night where the snow is falling hard. Several people wondered aloud if they were going to be able to get home. Another attendee had cross-country skied from Joseph to Enterprise. I ran into someone from last week’s bazaar, which led to an introduction to another writer, and in further discussions, yet another writer, both of whom might be interested in getting together to write.

The readings went well. Besides the cowboy, a poet with Australian origins read a piece about the meaning of home, and another poet read about her grandmother, who had worked at a nearby lumber mill, and inspired her as she worked at the lumber mill then went to college. The cowboy read a tale about one of those crazy cowboy antics that kinda tends to happen sometimes. The open mic readers read poems and a memoir about driving cross-country in 1977 (and a lot more than that). We chatted a bit after, then all of us headed home, some by car, others by foot or by ski. I savored my walk home through four inches of fluffy snow, looking at holiday lights and enjoying how the snow brightens the winter night.

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